CBSN

Students Trapped In Turkish Quake

Turkish soldiers work to rescue students, still buried in what remains of the school building, in Bingol, Turkey, Thursday May 1, 2003.
AP
A strong earthquake shook southeastern Turkey on Thursday, killing at least 84 people and injuring 390 others. Rescuers dug frantically in the rubble of a school dormitory, hunting for more than 100 children believed trapped.

CBS News Reporter Nicole Pope in Ankara says a boarding school for primary school students collapsed. Only 50 of the 200 students have been rescued so far; half are still missing.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at least 84 people were killed, while Housing Minister Zeki Ergezen said the death toll could be 150 throughout the region.

Hundreds of terrified parents prayed and screamed, waiting for news of their children in the four-story dormitory that collapsed in the village of Celtiksuyu.

Five students and one teacher were found dead, Bingol Mayor Feyzullah Karaaslan said.

"My friends are waiting for help in there. They were calling for help as they were pulling me out," 12-year-old Veysel Dagdelen was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency after he was rescued from the debris.

The magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck around 3:27 a.m. local time Thursday and was centered just outside the city of Bingol, 430 miles east of Ankara, the Kandilli seismology center in Istanbul said.

At least 25 buildings and a bridge collapsed in the center of Bingol, a city of 250,000 inhabitants, the mayor said. Damage could be seen throughout the city, where the streets were filled with terrified residents.

Most of the damage seems to have been to public buildings and large houses where the construction standards are not very good, said Pope.

The earthquake damaged power and telephone lines in the area. More than 100 aftershocks hit the region, and rescue workers were unable to reach many villages.

At the remnants of the school dorm, soldiers, rescuers and locals worked their way through the debris with cranes and jackhammers to try to save surviving students. Many students were being treated for their injuries on mattresses laid out near the flattened building.

Voices of the trapped children could be heard from under the debris, while soldiers tried to prevent desperate relatives from approaching the collapsed building.

Naim Gencgul, a 15-year-old boy, was pulled out of the rubble with a broken arm.

"The whole building was on top of me. We all started screaming," he said.

TV footage showed a soldier carrying another boy from the school's wreckage, amid cheers from onlookers. The boy could be heard shouting, "Father!"

Parents questioned the quality of the school's construction.

"The stable I built did not collapse, but the school did," Gunala's father, Abdullah Gunala said.

Erdogan visited the quake area, and said proper inspections had not been carried out and that shoddy material had been used to build the school.

"Investigations will be launched and the guilty will be prosecuted," he said.

Thousands of poorly built buildings collapsed when two massive earthquakes struck western Turkey in 1999, killing some 18,000 people.

Nazim Karabulut, a resident of Bingol, described the school as a "terrible construction."

"Nobody ever learned their lessons," he said.

Doctors at Bingol's state hospital appealed for help to deal with the crisis. The hospital was seriously damaged in the quake and scores of injured were being treated outside.

"We need every kind of help," said Ilhan Cokabay, chief doctor at the hospital. "Medical supplies, people, whatever."

The mayor said the city also needed more large tents. It's a mountainous area, and Spring is only just arriving, so it's still quite cold, said Pope. Many people had to leave their houses and are camping outside.

The Red Crescent has sent 3,100 tents, 13,000 blankets, as well as mobile kitchens, generators, ambulances, and four tons of food supplies, Anatolia reported. Soldiers, emergency workers and mountaineers with rescue experience were also headed to the area.

The temblor was felt in the nearby provinces of Erzincan, Tunceli, Bingol, Erzurum, Kayseri and Sivas.

The quake lasted 17 seconds, said Gulay Barbarasoglu of the Istanbul observatory.

Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which lies on the active North Anatolian fault. A 1971 quake in Bingol killed 900 people.